"Composite Constructions" More often than not, an art show in an office building means paintings stranded on temporary walls in some cavernous space. "Composite Constructions" is a little quirkier and more interesting than that. The hallways that bisect the lobby at the Travis Tower have wood-lined vitrines set into their walls. Two large ones provide perfect display space for Hillevi Barr's sculptures. Barr suspends the delicate paper forms of her constructions with wires, and locking them behind glass likens them to extravagantly fragile insects. Smaller cases hold Dandridge Reed's tiny works, collages of colored paper shapes on a colored ground. They feel like monumental paintings that have been miniaturized, and their display adds to the feeling of preciousness. Scott Gordon has a juicy work made with glossy paint and torn paper in another case. Other standouts are hung on the walls and include Lance Letscher's vibrantly colored geometric collages cut from old books. (A video from one of the tenants, Cohen Eye Associates, amusingly becomes part of the exhibition. The monitor is set into the wall with the display cases and presents a digital animation of eye irritation.) Organized by Kinzelman Art Consulting. Through October 5 at Travis Tower, 1301 Travis, 713-533-9923.
"Margaret Scott Dobbins: Moving Elements" Dobbins's titles suggest exotic landscapes: Tibetan Journey, Lost Cities, Night at Desert's Edge, Rift in Time. The paintings occupy the frontier between representation and abstraction, where the sights of the perceived world begin to melt into patterns. The larger canvases are rich in texture, the boundaries between large swathes of color deliberately fogged over, the borders never certain. The colors are warm, in quiet harmony with one another. For two of the pictures, Telepathy and Red Plate Tectonic, we are shown both the completed large work and smaller studies, allowing some insight into the painter's creative process. Through September 30 at The Jung Center, 5200 Montrose, 713-524-8253.
"Mid-Century Modern Revisited: Design 1943-1953" An enigmatic, molded plywood object hangs on the wall at Brazos Projects for the space's new exhibition. The object is a leg splint, and it was designed by Charles and Ray Eames and marketed to the U.S. Navy during WWII as an alternative to metal splints. Through designing the splint, the Eameses developed a technique to mold plywood and mass-produce it. They would later use the process to design furniture such as the 1946 molded plywood screen, which features beautifully undulating segments of wood held together by unobtrusive fabric hinges. In the show, the screen serves as a backdrop for other spectacular objects, like Eero Saarinen's "Womb Chair," which still looks fantastically contemporary almost 60 years later. The chair is grouped with George Nelson's glowing, podlike "Bubble Lamp" and the warm wood of an early version of Isamu Noguchi's iconic coffee table. While "Mid-Century Modern" has become a widely used and misused appellation, this little jewel of a show brings the term back to its origins with choice and beautiful objects from the early years. Through November 28. 2425 Bissonnet, 713-523-0701.
"Sharon Engelstein: Shapey" During the past few years, Sharon Engelstein used 3-D modeling software to design her otherworldly biomorphic sculptures. The final products, made with resin, were fabricated by computer. But in "Shapey," Engelstein's new exhibition at Mixture Contemporary Art, the technological precision is gone, replaced with a tactile handmade fleshiness. Using neolithic technology, the works in "Shapey" were formed from clay and fired. The smooth white sculptures have an amiably chunky visual weight; their cartoonlike forms have fleshy, lumpy bodies and floppy appendages. One Blue Paw (2004) is a rounded form with a robin's-egg blue bottom half and two drooping limbs, the end of one painted a pale blue. While Paw has a goofy sort of geniality, Saggy (2004) has an uneasy sensuality: With a lumpy, fatty form and two sagging protrusions, it's like a poochy belly sprouting what could be breasts or, just as easily, ears. In Big Innie Outie (2004), two white, silver-bottomed blobs snuggle together, as one nests its belly button-like innie in the other's outie. Engelstein's handmade forms are incredibly evocative, walking the line between the cute and the unsettling. Through October 9. 1709 Westheimer, 713-520-6809.
"Thomas Vinson: Home-run" So the artist/punk/nihilist-all-black look is out for the moment, which is almost too bad when you consider all the bright white at Thomas Vinson's show at Gallery Sonja Roesch. A few black-clad chin-rubbers slouching about would complement it perfectly. The islands of primary blue, red and yellow in the mostly white paintings against the intense white walls startle and impress. Vinson, trained as a sculptor, uses the three-dimensionality of multiple surfaces and displays a sense of composition reminiscent of Mondrian. The relations of the shapes in each of these pieces demonstrate an understanding of color and form at its most fundamental. Through October 30. 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424.